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All-new research2practice website: Access education research the easy way!

It’s hard keeping up-to-date with research relevant to learning in informal contexts: It can be difficult to access the journals; the papers are written in a language which is sometimes daunting; and it takes a long time to read a 30 page paper. But help is at hand! A brand new website, research2practice (http://research2practice.info/), provides open access to research findings distilled into short briefs (around 500 words) written by people familiar with the needs of the out-of-school science sector.

The project is funded by the US National Science Foundation and is an experiment to see if current peer-reviewed educational research can be made available, accessible, and useful to informal science educators. A team of researchers from the San Francisco Exploratorium, the University of Washington and King’s College London have looked at 10 peer-reviewed journals from the last couple of years and have selected those that offer something of interest to informal science education (ISE).

The database of briefs can be searched in two ways – using a set of keywords or just by looking for any particular word or phrase. New research briefs are featured on the site’s homepage. As well as the 150 research briefs, the project team has produced a set of synthesis papers which attempt to provide some historical context, and references to seminal books and papers, that relate to particular topics that we have identified as important in the ISE field today. These ‘Hot Topics’ include ‘Communicating Climate Change’ and ‘Expanding Access’ and are a mixture of specially commissioned papers and existing reports from experts in the field.

Users can create bookshelves containing the articles that they are particularly interested in. Other users can browse these bookshelves to see what research other people are finding useful. There’s also a glossary of terms such as ‘nature of science’ and ‘Community of Practice’.

Looking for user feedback!

To answer the question about whether or not current research can be made accessible and useful to informal science educators we need your help. We need your feedback on the idea of the site, on the format of the site, and on the content of the site. We ask that you please take the seconds required to register so that we know who is visiting the site, and for what purposes. We will send you a very short survey at the beginning of the summer to ask further questions, and if you are willing we might ask if we can call you to talk about the site.

We appreciate your help in this process, and we hope you encounter interesting, thought-provoking, and useful ideas as you browse the site.

-Justin Dillon, Heather King and Elaine Regan, King’s College London

Research2practice is a NSF-funded project: